Ciccio Restaurant Group founder James Lanza loves a good food hall.
Now he’s brought one to St. Petersburg.
On The Fly, CRG’s first food hall, will officially open Nov. 16 at 4447 4th Street N., when Taco Dirty joins Better Byrd, Sweet Soul and Fresh Kitchen under one roof.
Taco Dirty, with a veggie-friendly, New Mexican menu, and Sweet Soul, with plant-based smoothies, acai bowls and soft serve ice cream, have been a success on their own in Tampa and it was time to expand the concepts to St. Petersburg, Lanza told the St. Pete Catalyst.
“We were looking at stand-alone units for both but we decided that this is a much better platform for us,” Lanza said. “You are sitting at home, and sometimes you want a little of this, a little of that, different concepts. Now you have three concepts you can pick from — Sweet Soul, Taco Dirty and Better Byrd.”
Taco Dirty, Sweet Soul and Better Byrd are on a single digital ordering platform. Diners can place delivery orders for Taco Dirty, Better Byrd and Sweet Soul on the same ticket from Uber Eats, Door Dash, Grubhub and Postmates, as well as for pick up via On The Fly’s website.
Fresh Kitchen is on a separate ordering platform, but there’s shared seating on site.
Although Ciccio Restaurant Group is headquartered in Tampa, the company considers the entire Tampa-St. Petersburg area its home. CRG opened Ciccio Cali 15 years ago just off 4th Street, at 190 37th Ave. N.
The 4th Street corridor has been great for take-out because locations there offer room for people to park, Lanza said. But with the Covid-19 pandemic, delivery has replaced some take-out, opening downtown St. Petersburg options on Central Avenue, where parking is tight.
“Central is a great street,” Lanza said. “In the past we wanted more parking but now that delivery has replaced some takeout, it may work for us.”
The company is talking to some landlords downtown now, he said.
Overall, the pandemic has had a small impact on Ciccio’s business. Quick-service, including the restaurants in On The Fly, have had no problems. Full-service restaurants — Daily Eats, Green Lemon, Water + Flour, and Luv Child — have seen growth slow slightly. “Our growth was anywhere from 6 to 10 percent a year. Now it’s from negative 2 percent to 8 percent for full-service,” Lanza said.
Still, Florida restaurants are doing better than those in New York, where Lanza originally began in the industry and still has friends.
“People aren’t scared in Florida. They’ll go out and take a chance. But people in New York are still a little fearful because what they what went through was much more dramatic. It was tougher for them, a lot tougher,” he said. “We’re much more fortunate in Florida than places like New York, where everything has come to a standstill.”
Ciccio Restaurant Group currently owns and operates 15 different restaurants as well as the south Tampa fitness studio CAMP.